Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours Presents...
A Murderous Malady
A conversation with Christine Trent
Hi Christine, welcome to Myths, Legends, Books &Coffee Pots. Before we begin, please tell my readers who you are and why you do!
Hi! I’m Christine Trent, author of 11 novels and 2 novellas, including the Lady of Ashes mysteries and the Florence Nightingale mysteries. A MURDEROUS MALADY is the second book in the Florence Nightingale series. I collect books, dolls, fountain pens, and—much to my husband’s chagrin—cats. I love those little balls of fur! You can get more information about me at www.ChristineTrent.com.
Your book, A Murderous Malady, looks fabulous. What inspired you to write it?
I was in the middle of the Lady of Ashes mystery series about a Victorian undertaker when my agent asked me to think about a new mystery series, something still Victorian but a different take on the era.
My mother had been a nurse for many years and even into retirement had held on to her nursing license. She was very proud of having earned it. It occurred to me that Florence Nightingale was a Victorian figure, and it would have been homage to my mother to write about the great nursing reformer.
Plus, a nurse is going to encounter a lot of suspicious deaths, right?
My mother was very excited about the idea, as was my agent, who got right to work on it. Unfortunately, mom had a serious medical condition and died before my agent sold the series to my wonderful editor at Crooked Lane Books.
I like to think that mom would have been very happy about it. I wish she could have known.
Christine’s mother in her nursing school photo.
Wow! Such inspirations. What were the challenges you faced in researching this period of history?
The 19th century was a whirlwind of change in Great Britain. If you were born in 1837, the year Queen Victoria ascended the throne, there was no part of your life that wasn’t completely different by the time of her death in 1901.
You were born by candlelight, but by the end of your life you had gas lamps, and even electricity was starting to make its way into some areas.
You traveled by horse and carriage in 1837, but by 1901, you not only had a network of trains to use, but you could even sail across the ocean by steamship in under a week.
In 1837, surgery was a death sentence. By the turn of the 20th century, there existed a whole host of medicine, surgical practices, and hospital care that made your odds of survival pretty good.
Because of all these rapid changes, it can make it difficult to ensure that I’m getting everything right on a year-by-year basis. The series starts in 1853 and will run through at least the end of the Crimean War in 1856. Keeping up with societal and technological changes in just that 3-year period can be challenging.
It was certainly a time of rapid change. There are many books about the Victorian Age. Can you tell us three things that set your novels apart?
I enjoy writing about women in unusual professions, thus all of my books tend to be a bit different. I’ve written about a doll maker, a waxworker, a cloth merchant, and undertaker, and now I’ve taken on the great nursing reformer, Florence Nightingale. I would say my Florence Nightingale series in particular is unusual from many other Victorian novels in these 3 ways:
A focus on the middle class. Although Florence herself came from a wealthy background, she primarily served the poor and the emerging middle class. The series looks more closely at life and medicine for those Britons in the middle of society, rather than focusing on those on the lowest rungs (think workhouses) or the upper echelons of society (Mayfair).
No sugarcoating. Florence Nightingale is rightfully revered for single-handedly changing everything that ever existed about nursing and hospitals. She loved her patients and they adored her right back. But she could also be nervous, irritable, and waspish when things were not going her way. And although she was remarkably forward-thinking, she certainly had some views that might seem to be odd today. I try to portray Florence as she was, in both her glory and her flaws. It is my hope that readers enjoy the layered approach.
Fish Pie, Pickled Oysters, and Broxy. Characters in my books don’t just sit down to supper, they invite the reader in to share it with them. I use cookbooks of the time to ensure that meals are exactly the sort that that character would have had at the time. I even make sure that anyone’s name I use—first and last—was in use in the time period. I still manage to get details wrong, but I do try to get everything as accurate as possible.
For those who are wondering, “Broxy” was a butcher’s term for any kind of meat—usually sheep—that had died of disease. Yes, there was a market for this meat in poor families. I’m guessing that people suffering from ingesting it would have kept Florence quite busy in the hospital!
Too cute to ever be Broxy!
Fabulous! What are you currently working on?
Well, my agent is shopping a new project and I don’t want to jinx it by saying too much about it. Let’s just say that it is both historical and modern, plus there is a lovable Chesapeake Bay Retriever as well as a creepy old house in it.
I’m also completing work on an anthology with Susanna Kearsley, C.S. Harris, and Anna Lee Huber. Featuring a cursed pocket watch’s travels through the centuries, Sourcebooks will be publishing THE DEADLY HOURS sometime in 2020.
Finally, I’m also quite busy on the board of the Historical Novel Society’s North American Conference, coming up June 20-22, 2019, at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Convention Center. Your readers might like to know that on June 22, we will have a Readers Festival where the public can mingle with their favorite historical authors, who in a variety of sub-genres (mystery, romance, military fiction, etc.). There will also be a huge book signing of 100+ authors. Book store available on site. Only $10 to attend, $5 advance purchase. Find out more HERE!
Thank you for dropping by and talking to us today!
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Christine Trent is the author of the Florence Nightingale Mysteries, the Lady of Ashes historical mystery series, about a Victorian-era undertaker, and three other historical novels. Christine’s novels have been translated into Turkish, Polish, and Czech. She writes from her two-story home library, where she lives with her husband, four precocious cats, a large doll collection, entirely too many fountain pens, and over 4,000 catalogued books.
Learn more about Christine at www.christinetrent.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.